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Joseph D. Ketner II

revised by Wendy Jean Katz

(b Fayette, Seneca County, NY, ?1821; d Detroit, MI, Dec 21, 1872).

African American painter. A self-taught artist and landscape painter of the Hudson River school tradition, Duncanson was the first African American artist to receive international recognition (see fig.). Born into a family of painters and handymen, Duncanson first worked as a house-painter and glazier in Monroe, MI. By 1841 he was in Cincinnati, OH, where he learnt to paint by executing portraits and copying prints. Throughout the 1840s he travelled as an itinerant artist between Cincinnati, Monroe, and Detroit. His early work included portraits, including those of local abolitionists and educators, as well as a few genre subjects and ‘chemical’ paintings for paying exhibition.

Around 1850 Duncanson was awarded his largest commission, the murals for the Cincinnati estate Belmont, formerly the Martin Baum House (now Cincinnati, OH, Taft Mus.), then owned by prominent art patron Nicholas Longworth (1869–1931). These consist of eight landscape panels (2.77×2.21 m each) in ...